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29 Oct 2018

£20k Polish benefits fraudster was benefits worker

A mother fiddled more than £20,000 in handouts while working in her local council's benefits department. (h/t Dave)

Edyta Ratecka, 41, from Cardiff, lied that she was a single mother before being caught out by Facebook pictures showing she lived with her boyfriend.

A judge told Ratecka she 'knew what she was doing' because she worked in the benefits department of Cardiff Council.

Polish-born Ratecka claimed benefits while living with boyfriend Daniel Thomas and her daughter - before later giving birth to his twins in 2013.

Facebook pictures showed the family celebrating holidays and Christmas together.

Nuhu Gobir, prosecuting, said: 'Information came to light she was living with her partner and an investigation was launched into her benefit claim. Evidence was obtained her partner Daniel Thomas was in full-time employment and was living with her while she was claiming benefit. She was invited to an interview with investigators under caution. She said she didn't live with Mr Taylor but he stayed sometimes to help with the children.

'She was presented with all the evidence in the interview but could offer no reasonable explanation why she did not notify the council and HMRC about a change in her circumstances.'

Cardiff Crown Court heard she claimed a total of £20,492 between 2013 and 2016.

Ratecka pleaded guilty to fraudulent activity, making a false representation to obtain benefits, and of dishonestly failing to notify a change in circumstances.

She was handed a 24-week suspended sentence.

Judge Tracey Lloyd-Clarke said: 'You were working for a benefit section of Cardiff council so you were aware of what you were doing.'

Ratecka was also ordered to carry out 100 hours unpaid work, complete a six-day rehabilitation activity requirement, and to pay £300.

Source with pictures

24 Oct 2018

Smoking mother wants to get off scot free

A £78,000 benefit cheat wants to get out of doing unpaid work - claiming she's incapable of doing it.

Kathryn Leathard fleeced taxpayers for five years by claiming to be a single mum. She dodged jail last year due to her three kids. Instead, she was handed 140 hours of unpaid work to do.

We posted here that in essence she had escaped punishment.

But now she's trying to get that scrapped, claiming it is "unworkable".

The 30-year-old was due at South Tyneside Magistrates' Court on Monday but failed to show. The court heard she had called up that day claiming she was "too anxious" to attend.

Last year the Prudhoe woman pleaded guilty to three benefit fraud offences, receiving a 12-month suspended sentence along with the community service.

She'd claimed tax credits, income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit on the basis she was living alone.

But inspectors realised she was living with her partner - after his Just Eat account was registered to her Parkwood Avenue address.

Sentencing Leathard in November, Judge Stephen Earl slammed her for taking from the public purse.

“Let’s be clear - this is public money you defrauded the Government and the public out of," he told Newcastle Crown Court. “People who pay into it are entitled to that money.

“It may be you would have been entitled to some of it but but the effect is, when people commit fraud, you never know the full truth. I accept you didn’t get into this seeing how much you could defraud but you have defrauded and it’s a large some of money."

However he said "it can't be easy" looking after three children, adding: " I’m not going to take her away from her children.”

Between 2011 and 2016, previously-unconvicted Leathard pocketed £78,990.

But now she's launched an application to amend the requirements of a suspended sentence.

The application claims the unpaid work is "unworkable having been assessed as unfit for work". The reason is unclear as she failed to attend court on Monday.

Magistrates heard she may not have attended as a blunder meant some documents may have stated the hearing was at South East Northumberland Magistrates' Court. However, the court clerk clarified she had called to say she wasn't attending, stating: "She has contacted us to say she is too anxious to come to court."

The case was adjourned until October 31, with a venue to be decided.

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22 Oct 2018

Benefit fraudster claimed she lived alone

A woman has appeared in court over a £48,000 benefit fraud.

Stacey Forster was put in the dock after it was found she was paid money she was not entitled to.

The 26-year-old, from Walker, claimed income support, council tax benefit and housing benefit over a number of years but had not alerted the authorities to a change in her circumstances.

She failed to inform them that she was living in the same household with a man as husband and wife, which meant she should not have received these payments.

At North Tyneside Magistrates' Court, Forster pleaded guilty to three charges of dishonestly failing to notify a change of circumstances affecting her entitlement to benefits. The offences spanned periods between 2011 and 2017.

Prosecutor Paul Anderson said: "The total loss amounts to £48,000. This is someone who was not entitled to benefits and does not play fair with the benefit people. She is given money that she's not entitled to.

"She was living together with someone but has not declared that to the authorities and has received benefits to which she was not entitled. You need to notify the departments of any change in circumstances."

Magistrates decided to send the case to Newcastle Crown Court as they felt their sentencing powers were insufficient.

Forster was asked to appear at crown court on November 14 for sentence and was released on unconditional bail.

Source with picture

Not hard, is it. Presumably her partner didn't notice a thing.

16 Oct 2018

Sentencing for benefit fraud deferred

A woman has apologised after illegally claiming thousands of pounds in benefits.

Razean Begum Afsar, from Middlesbrough, failed to tell the Department of Works and Pensions that she had more savings than was allowed.

Now the 55-year-old has been brought before Teesside magistrates where she admitted five charges.

But after learning there was a proceeds of crime element to the case the hearing was adjourned to a later date at Teesside Crown Court.

Afsar pleaded guilty to committing fraud in that between February 8, 2013 and April 24, 2013 at Middlesbrough she failed to disclose to the Department for Work and Pensions that she had capital in excess of the permitted limits, intending to make a gain of £1,103.70 in Income Support.

She also admitted that on April 25, 2013 at Middlesbrough she committed fraud by dishonestly making a false representation, in that she had no capital in excess of the permitted limits, intending to make a gain of £2007.60 in Employment Support Allowance.

Further charges of dishonestly making a false statement covering claiming Employment Support Allowance in 2013, Job Seekers Allowance in June 2015 and Income Support in 2015 while having the excess capital were also admitted.

Amy Levitt, defending, told the hearing her client was sorry for what had happened.

She said: “She does wish to express her deep remorse and regret. She is extremely apologetic for her actions.”

Afsar was granted unconditional bail until sentencing at Teesside Crown Court.

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15 Oct 2018

"Disabled" pensioner walked her dog 4 times a day

A 72-year-old benefits cheat who falsely claimed more than £22,400 was caught after being spotted walking her dog up to four times a day.

Patricia Kowalewski claimed disability living allowance between March 24 2010 and September 27 2016, stating she wasn’t able to carry out certain everyday tasks.

But the Department of Work and Pensions received an anonymous tip-off before investigators carried out surveillance.

Fiscal depute Anna Chisholm said: “She claimed that her needs were greater than they actually were. This first came to light when an anonymous allegation came to the DWP as to the accused’s ability to walk the dog… up to four times a day.”

Investigators watched Kowalewski on eight occasions also spotting her walking with no aid, at a “normal pace”, opening and closing garage doors with no difficulty and picking up shopping from her car.

Ms Chisholm said Kowalewski had claimed a total of £44,929.50 over the same period but accepted she “would have been entitled to some of the disability allowance”.

Kowalewski appeared at Aberdeen Sheriff Court for sentencing having previously pled guilty.

Defence agent Gregor Kelly said: “It’s a matter of great shame to her that she finds herself facing a criminal process so late in life.”

He said Kowalewski suffered from back problems and chronic pain and had good days and bad days, adding: “It could be argued it’s a partial fraud.” He said she had been paying money back at £200 per month.

Sheriff Graham Buchanan said: “Plainly this is a serious offence because of the amount of money which you obtained from the state to which you were not entitled.”

He ordered Kowalewski, from Kingswells, to carry out 270 hours of unpaid work.

A DWP spokeswoman said: “Only a small minority of benefit claimants are dishonest, but cases like these show how we are catching the minority who cheat the system and divert taxpayers’ money from those who need it. We are determined to catch those we suspect of fraudulently claiming benefits by following up on tip-offs, undertaking surveillance and working with local councils.”

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12 Oct 2018

High-living couple evaded tax and claimed benefits

A Liverpool couple who dodged tax and swindled benefits to fund a luxury lifestyle have been ordered to repay £355,000.

Bernard Knutsen, 69, and his wife Maureen, 63, ran Chaplin's bar on Lodge Lane and a car garage in the city.

Pictures reveal wads of cash found at their home that they used to fund their expensive tastes and jet-settling high-life.

The couple’s tax-dodging scheme also netted them

  • Trips to the UAE and USA in 2010 followed by a dream trip to the Far East taking in Hong Kong, Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore and India in March 2011.
  • In November 2011, they jetted off to South Africa, followed by more trips to the USA in 2013 and then a holiday to Argentina, The Falklands and Antarctica in 2014 – all totalling £21,000
  • A brand new £24,000 kitchen at their Fell Street Home.
The couple were jailed for a total of seven years for tax and benefit fraud following a joint investigation by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), the Department for Work and Pensions and Liverpool City Council.

They now face losing their family home and pub – as well as expensive jewellery and tens of thousands of pounds in savings.

At a confiscation hearing led by HMRC at Liverpool Crown Court on October 4, Bernard Knutsen was ordered to repay £323,195 within three months or spend another three years behind bars.

The Knutsen's had thousands of pounds stashed away along with luxury watches and jewelry
£76,459 of this will be paid as compensation to the Department for Work and Pensions. Maureen Knutsen must repay £32,929 within three months or face another year in prison.

Debbie Porter, Assistant Director, Fraud Investigation Service, HMRC, said: “The Knutsens lived a jet-set lifestyle paid for by a criminal income from cheating every honest tax payer. The Knutsens lost their liberty because of their greed and now face more time behind bars. HMRC will continue to pursue criminals after conviction to seize their ill-gotten assets.”

They ran Chaplin’s Bar on Lodge Lane and a car repair garage on Hill Street, but failed to pay any VAT, National Insurance or Income Tax while also fraudulently claiming benefits.

A search of their home uncovered a wealth of jewellery, including Rolex watches and Royal Mint gold sovereign coins, as well as bundles of cash totalling almost £40,000 stashed in handbags.

Investigators also found that the couple had a £50,000 endowment policy, and had placed £20,000 into the bank accounts of their grandchildren.

The couple’s daughter Kelly Knutsen, 39, who was sentenced to 21 months suspended for two years for her involvement in the fraud, has been ordered to repay £5,010 within 28 days or face three months in jail.

Kelly Knutsen received unexplained money from both businesses into her bank account and owned a £4,000 Rolex watch.

She also claimed benefit to cover her rent but failed to declare a second property she owned and rented out.

The full £5,010 will be paid to Liverpool City Council as compensation.

Source

11 Oct 2018

Woman in £140k benefit fraud

A woman found guilty of one of Northern Ireland’s largest ever benefit frauds was overpaid more than £140,000, a court heard.

Pauline Donaghy from North Belfast will be sentenced next week after admitting to getting the approximately £144,000 in Housing Benefit and Income Support.

Belfast Crown Court heard that while the 42-year-old mother of three is currently paying back £25 a week, “it would take 100 years to repay the money, not including any interest”.

After listening to submissions from both the Crown and defence, Judge RoseAnn McCormick QC branded the case and sentencing process as “complex and compelling” and said she would pass sentence next Tuesday.

Prior to adjourning sentencing, Judge McCormick heard that Donaghy pleaded guilty to two counts of failing to declare a change of circumstances. The 42-year old admitted obtaining Housing Benefit between February 2009 and August 2015 and failing to notify the Social Security Agency that she was living with her partner, and of obtaining Income Support between January 2009 and June 2015 in the same circumstances.

Crown barrister Kate McKay said Donaghy obtained an overpayment of just over £22,340 in Housing Benefit and an overpayment of around £122,630 in Income Support which she was not entitled to, whilst living with her partner.

The prosecutor said Donaghy’s offending started to emerge when an investigation was launched by the Department of Social Development regarding Housing Benefit on a house rented by Donaghy as a private tenant.

The court heard Donaghy’s partner was named as the landlord of the property, but that investigations revealed they were living together in the house “as husband and wife”. The court also heard that Donaghy’s partner had been in full time employment from 2000 until the detection in 2015.

When Donaghy was interviewed in August 2015, she admitted she had signed the relevant benefit claim forms, but had failed to notify of a change of circumstances.

Ms McKay said Donaghy initially made the case that her partner was just her landlord, and that he worked in England frequently. She also claimed he had lived in the house before she moved in, that he called in to check the property sometimes, that he never stayed over, and she denied they were in a relationship.

The prosecutor said that when evidence was put to Donaghy that this man was living at the property - including medical and employment records - she admitted they lived together and he was the father of her three children.

Telling the judge she believed the custody threshold had been met, Ms McKay said Donaghy’s offending “went on for a considerable period of time”, and revealed the overpayment was “one of the largest there has been in this jurisdiction”.

Ms McKay added that she accepted the money was not used to fund a lavish lifestyle, and that Donaghy came before the court with a clear criminal record.

Defence barrister Mark Farrell said that whilst Donaghy may have been reluctant at first to admit what she did during interview, “full admissions” were made.

The barrister said Donaghy had has had the case “hanging over her head like the Sword of Damocles” for over three years, which has heightened the depression and anxiety she already suffers from.

Mr Farrell accepted the amount of overpayment was a “significant amount of money”, telling Judge McCormick his client is voluntarily paying back £25 from her benefits. He said: “This amounts to £100 a month, so it will take 100 years to repay all this money, not including any interest. There is no extravagant living or lifestyle here, no fancy cars of foreign holidays.” Instead, Mr Farrell said Donaghy used the money for household bills and day to day living.

Mr Farrell also spoke of Donaghy’s “remorse, contrition and regret”, adding that she may have been eligible for certain benefits had she informed the SSA of her change in circumstances.

He urged the Judge to only consider custody “as a last resort” and said other alternatives such as a Probation Order would be more appropriate.

Judge McCormick told Donaghy she will be sentenced next Tuesday.

Source

P.S. Dave adds, "Handing Donaghy a 12-month sentence, the Judge concluded: "Her personal circumstances should be given considerable weight, and accordingly I am suspending the sentence for a period of two years."

Source

10 Oct 2018

Tenant admits illegal sub-letting & 'right to buy' fraud

A father has admitted fraudulently trying to buy his Kilburn council flat under the government’s right-to-buy scheme – despite having lived in Watford for five years.

Ryan Cooper lived in Camden Council’s Casterbridge block in Abbey Road for more than a decade.

He was given the lease to the council flat in 2001, but ceased living there in October 2013.

At Highbury Corner magistrates’ court Cooper pleaded guilty to two charges and he will be sentenced at Blackfriars Crown Court on a date to be determined.

Along with the right-to-buy fraud, Cooper was convicted of illegally sub-letting the Abbey Road flat for five years between 2013 and 2018 after he moved to out to live with his wife and young son.

Camden Council has also made an unlawful profit order in hope of recovering £36,000 – the estimated difference between what he made in rent and what he was paying the council – from Cooper.

The defendant spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth and to enter his guilty pleas.

Prosecuting on behalf of Camden Council, Edward Sarkis told magistrates: “Under the fraud act, you are looking at medium-to-high culpability here.

“The second offence saw Mr Cooper submit a right-to-buy application. The application should be from someone who had actually been living in the property, but Mr Cooper had been living in Watford with his wife and child.”

Mr Sarkis added: “Having had the lease since 2001, he would have been in line for a considerable discount under right-to-buy.”

Defending, Jeffrey Lewis said; “Obviously Mr Cooper should get credit for his guilty pleas. He also handed back the keys to the property – Camden did not have to seek a possession order.

“At the end of the day we are talking about a man of good character, and I hope to prove this whether in this court or another.”

As he bailed Cooper to appear at Blackfriars Crown Court for sentencing, the lead sitting magistrate said: “We are talking about potential loss to Camden Council, but more properly the loss to the person on the council housing waiting list who should have been in that property.”

Source

9 Oct 2018

Probation officer in benefit fraud

A woman who illegally claimed more than £7,000 in benefits while working as a probation officer has avoided jail.

Tara Gale, 38, claimed Employment and Support Allowance and Housing Benefit between February 2015 and February 2016 while in paid employment.

The mother-of-one failed to disclose her circumstances when she made the benefit application to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), on the grounds she was unable to work and having no income or savings.

In total she fraudulently claimed £7,351.70 from the DWP and Bridgend Council .

When it came to light that Gale was working as a probation officer, an investigation was launched and she was interviewed under caution.

She said she was “surprised” when it was put to her she was in work while claiming benefits, and had not done it intentionally but due to “problems with her memory”.

Gale, from Bridgend, initially pleaded not guilty to two counts of benefit fraud but changed her pleas in April.

It was claimed on Gale’s behalf that she suffered with dyslexia and possible bipolar disorder and ADHD.

She has one previous conviction for shoplifting dating back to 2015.

However did she get to be a probation officer?

She was due to be sentenced in May but Judge Neil Bidder QC deferred sentencing so Gale could be given the chance to engage with mental health services and to arrange to make regular payments to the DWP.

He warned on the last occasion that if she failed to comply with the requirements she would be sent to prison.

At the postponed sentencing hearing at Cardiff Crown Court, Judge Bidder said Gale had complied with what had been asked of her.

He added: “As a probation officer, you have let yourself down and this sort of thing reflects very badly on the service. It’s not their fault but it is a reflection on them.

"This was a dishonest failure to say you were working while applying for benefit and you obtained £7,351 through your dishonesty.

“You are not a person of good character and in my judgement this is serious enough to pass the custody threshold but if you make payments of your debt to the benefit agencies, I will not send you to prison.”

Gale was sentenced to 18 weeks imprisonment suspended for two years.

Source

8 Oct 2018

Benefit cheat said he had fled the Taliban

A man who fled the Taliban wrongly claimed almost £30,000 in benefits, a court was told. (h/t Dave)

Car wash boss Rassul Kadir, 33, claimed Incapacity Benefit saying he could not work because he had a bad back.

But investigators from the Department of Work and Pensions discovered Kadir, from Blackpool, managed to hold down four jobs during the period.

Kadir admitted two charges under the Fraud Act of dishonestly failing to disclose information about his work and a third charge of making a false statement to claim Council Tax Benefit from Preston Council. Pam Smith, prosecuting at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court, said the claims for benefit had been made by Kadir, who stated he was unfit for work.

When interviewed, Kadir denied doing any paid work but when confronted with evidence admitted what he had done claiming he did not understand the claims system or understand English.

His lawyer, Gerry Coyle, said Kadir had fled from his home country with his father when he was 16 because of the Taliban regime. He said: “He has turned his life round and has a car wash on Talbot Road in Blackpool which employs six people.”

He was bailed until October 31 for sentencing.

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